A New Kind of Pack Mule

Weighed down by too many packages or bags? Might be time to get a Gita.

I’ve heard enough about autonomous vehicles for the time being. What I really want is a hands-free way to lug all my stuff around. And it looks like I just may get what I wished for very soon.

A few years ago, Harvard professor Jeffrey Schnapp met with the leadership team at the Piaggio Group, the maker of the Vespa. From that meeting a new R&D and manufacturing company was born on the back streets of Boston, according to an article in WIRED.

The company, dubbed Piaggio Fast Forward [PFF], created its first product Gita as a rolling robot that can carry up to 40 pounds of cargo for miles. The WIRED article states that, “rather than get you from A to B as fast as possible, [Gita] is meant to get you there more easily. More than that, Gita is a way to begin to explore what the world looks like when humans and robots share the sidewalk. And, hopefully, to make that idea seem a little less scary.”

Well, I’m not scared. I’m excited!

The concept that PFF came up with is called “granular mobility,” which is the ability to navigate the sidewalks and the spaces where people move. “A Vespa for the 21st century,” the founders say.

Gita is not completely autonomous, rather, it is meant to follow you when you put on its corresponding wearable—which right now looks like a tool belt, but will eventually shrink to the size of a smartphone. You can be walking or riding your bike, as Gita can move as fast as 22 miles per hour while locking in your things to the cargo hold with the touch of your finger (well, your fingerprint.) It turns, it stops, and it avoids obstacles thanks to its vision system cameras that map its surroundings.

Besides helping you lug your groceries home, the Piaggo Fast Forward team envisions other applications, including, helping elderly people to get around, or providing a mail carrier with a group of Gitas to get deliveries done fast. The company is also working on a version that can carry a heavier load.

Gita is in the pilot phase today, but a bigger rollout is planned for 2018. Can’t wait!

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